the website where i get my daily dose of baseball analysis is baseballprospectus.com, love the writing and the analysis is top notch even if i don't agree with it all of the time. my latest disagreement is on the trades the dodgers made to obtain manny ramirez and casey blake. i think there is a very important factor that is being missed. disclaimer alert, i am a dodgers fan, most definitely to a point where they are going to get the benefit of the doubt.
at first, i mostly agreed that players like laroche and santana were too valuable to part with for a couple of 2 month rentals. since manny played in the al his entire career, and my rotisserie league is a life long nl league (causing me to watch about 90% nl games), i knew knew he was one of the best hitters in the game but i never really watched the red sox play many games in a row because i hate them more than any other team on the planet. so, i had never seen a motivated manny ramirez over a sustained amount of time. i now have, and it is fairly impressive. dude finds meat of the bat in almost any area of the strike zone and he does not swing at many outside of it. so the question is, how can 2 months be worth a couple of pretty solid prospects?
i think the area of the trade unexplored by bp.com is the absolutely enormous financial impact on the dodgers if they were to win a playoff series, a feat not achieved by the boys in blue in 2 decades now. the immediate impact of manny is a large boost in ticket sales and alot of number 99 jerseys in LA. but that is a very short term financial benefit that if they do not win is not sustainable.
right now, the nationwide interest in the dodgers is rising, but not to a fevered pitch. if the dodgers win a playoff series, all that changes. only out of town baseball jerseys that are prevalent these days are the yankees, red sox and more and more the cubs (if they win, the same raging bile duct reaction i had to the red sox winning will surely repeat itself). but that all changes if the dodgers win a playoff series or make the WS. there are as many if not more dodgers fans out there just waiting to taste some serious success. and if dodger fan makes a serious reappearance and spends his jack on dodgers gear and games, then the dodgers can easily run with the sox and yankees dollar wise. so the bet mccourt is making on manny is pretty damn big in the long term scheme of things.
so the question becomes, with manny and blake in the lineup everyday and andy larcohe (and the cast of suspects when laroche doesn't play) and juan pierre not in the lineup everyday - will they win a playoff series? laroche may become a great player, i hope he does - but in a tight race down the stretch and in a presumed playoff series, he has not yet proven with his results at the major league level so far that he is up to the task. blake in the 6-8 spot is more than adequate to make the dodgers a legit power lineup when before the trades they were one of the weakest in the majors.
but the enormous impact is obviously - manny in, juan and andruw out. now that ethier and kemp are more consistently putting together the production that has been only seen in spurts, the addition of manny has finally relieved dodger fans of daily doses of the jp and dru show, 2 guys making outs at 67 and 74% clips to a guy making them only 59% of the time. and when you add that manny is outslugging the duo by 246 and 310 points respectively, well now you are cooking with fire. the national talking heads (another despised squad of humans for the most part) are talking about whether there is a "manny effect" or are guys like jeff kent just getting hot. what a waste of time, it's clear kent's strike zone has shrunk back to bonds era kent size and he is hitting line drives. i don't think he will ever get the power back, but he can hit a fastball in the strike zone hard.
Zona has the better pitching, but LA now has the edge offensively and remainder of the year schedule wise. the problem is the winner of the west most likely matches up against the cubs, a team they are not better than either offensively or pitching wise (i do like that zambrano is springing a leak though here late in the season). have to hope for pumpkin treatment on the edmonds/johnson combo and that big blue can score runs off of dempster and lilly.
bottom line - winning now is so imperative to l.a. that they had to make a trade like this. but make no mistake, they are pretty damn close to all in - not making the playoffs or stumbling again in the first round would most defintely set them back substantially.
p.s. - for next year dodgers should offer manny 2 years, $45-50M. Any longer or more money would be a poor decision. unfortunately my faith is pretty low in ned colleti not giving old guys too much money and bogging down the franchise for too many years in the future.